We, hungarians

Europe: something deeply familiar, something intrinsic to us. It defines us, yet we yearn for a more European version of ourselves — something more magnificent, more beautiful, more joyful, more deserving. Something we have long earned, yet remain unrewarded. And like the monk in search of God, despite traversing the globe, referencing András Jelky and Sándor Kőrösi Csoma along the way, sipping the latter's rich butter tea on Tibet's peaks, our minds still wander to our humble János Hill. Eventually, unexpectedly, we find ourselves back at home, at Örkény’s Joliot Curie Square, precisely where we started.

In the same vein, wherever life may lead us, we carry Hungary within us, its essence etched into our hearts. It is akin to a miniature Hungary park, where we would delight in guiding the European visitor from street to street, building to building, city to city, even person to person, revealing who we are and trusting that they truly understand. With great zeal, confidence, and a touch of apprehension that what we articulate may truly be comprehensible to someone not Hungarian. Feigning modesty, we recount our past adventures, ensuring it is understood there is no deceit: we shot from the saddle in reverse. We take pride in the fact that once we were feared – in our wildness, our refusal to fit in, and our defiance. Yet, we often hint at our sense of being strangers, that nobody truly understands us — and it is not always clear whether we are boasting or lamenting. In that park, we would converse about our distinctive language and our modest stature, as well as our renown: the number of Olympic gold medals we have earned and the Nobel laureates we have contributed and continue to contribute to the world. We would mention our inventions and our enduring ability to innovate: indeed, the revolving door. Hungarians do not readily surrender. We surmount every obstacle and earn acclaim. We stand our ground wherever we find ourselves. We bestow geniuses upon the world, demonstrating our talent and ingenuity, akin to the youngest prince in fairy tales, we might say to the park’s visitor. We Hungarians contribute more to the world than we receive, yet we do not keep score of debts. It is more a surplus of strength than a deficit.

Could it be that two intentions are simultaneously at play within us? Perhaps we desire to take pride in our differences as much as in our sense of belonging, our European citizenship? Does it pain us when we must assert what should be self-evident, and are we so stubborn because we are forced into this defiance? One thing is certain: that youngest prince travels the world, and wherever he finds himself, he wins hearts. Perhaps he is a renowned researcher, a professor in Heidelberg, a street musician in Prague, a vendor of lángos in Tallinn, a painter in Amsterdam, a fashion designer in Paris. Or a mountaineer who perishes on an eight-thousand-meter peak. But sewn into the lining of his coat, this is absolutely certain: there is a map of Hungary.

We live, we endure, we survive. Here, in Europe. Here, within the Carpathian Basin. Here, in Hungary, where even after five centuries, we remember Mohács in Hungarian. We lift our gaze because Europe is the noon bell, the Parliament, the Basilica of Esztergom, the Hungarian Great Plain, Csíksomlyó, Csontváry’s Lonely Cedar, and the ballads of János Arany. Europe is homelike, something intrinsic to us.